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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 12 April 2008 Issue

Pawprints, Footprints & Animal Chatter
By Judith Marie Gansen

To Win For Animals, Get Politically Active Now!

(To those who emailed me about my last article "An Open Letter to My Meat-Eating Family"--For some reason we lost some emails and I was not able to respond.  Please email me again--my apologies to those readers!)

Article 49 - To Win For Animals, Get Politically Active Now! 
(See my related articles:  Voting and Why The Animals Need Our Votes 10/29/02 and Animal Rights is Politics!! from 6/15/04)

The Problem

Animal people sometimes don't understand politics or have become too pessimistic to think that change is possible for animals through politics.  They sometimes don't even vote or even worse, spread cynicism to other animal people.

Problems With Voting

Yes, our system needs reform as well as paper backup ballots.  Should we give up one of our most precious rights to be involved in choosing who governs us because our system isn't perfect?  One woman said to me that she was too busy with the kids to take time to vote--her kids were more important.  Wow.  What she doesn't get is that if she took a small amount of time to be an informed voter and vote it would have such a huge impact on the future of those kids.  The war?  Healthcare?  The future of animals and how they are treated? Our planet?  The water we drink and the air we breathe?  International issues?  My question is how can anyone even consider NOT voting??  I skim through the newspaper (things you often can't find online) and tear out articles that I feel I will need when I vote.

The Nature of the Beast

Politicians never tell the truth.  Let's say you wanted to run for office and you need votes to get into office.  You realize the more you voice your opinion, the more votes you usually lose.  So you learn to answer questions very cautiously and diplomatically because the next words tumbling out of your mouth too fast or a strong opinion one way or the other could cost you 100 votes.  Or 5,000 votes.  So how would you write your speeches knowing that?

Politicians are corrupt and do illegal things.  So are members of any other profession you care to mention, even some in law enforcement and the clergy.  It is easier to think all politicians are nasty beings and just give up on trying to make changes for the animals.   It's more work to try to study issues, vote intelligently and MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR THOSE WHO CAN'T VOTE WHO NEED US TO HELP THEM!

Politicians Are Owned by Lobbyists

Lobbyists aren't only the big major corporations who some see as entirely evil.  Humane organizations also have lobbyists as do senior citizens groups, unions and education.  Many want lobbyists out but until then, deal with the fact that if someone legally donated a bunch of money to your campaign to run, wouldn't you feel you owed them something for helping you win? If you don't do something nice for them after you win, word will get out fast and you won't get contributions again.

The number one priority on EVERY politician's mind is getting re-elected and getting money to get re-elected.  Think about it if you were the politician.  You ran for office for the reasons you feel strongly about.  You can't accomplish those goals if you lose your job now can you?  Some politicians run without lobbyist money but that is a tough road to take since money often means the difference between a win or a loss.  Even a $100 donation to a county commission race means that candidate has more money for signs and fliers to get out.  Oprah is helping Senator Obama's presidential campaign but others are not lucky enough to have Oprah!   (Both Senators Clinton and Obama have a good record on animal protection.  Senator Obama even has a link on his website to stopping puppy mills!)

Politicians Make Promises They Don't Keep

I remember the first President Bush's campaign speech:  "Read my lips, no new taxes."   Then he won and raised taxes.  Did that make him a liar or a good politician?  He won, didn't he?

We must learn to wake up and smell the coffee where politics is concerned and become more practical!   Read up on politics and understand what makes a politician or issue win. Guess what, it is not usually about petitions and postcards sent to the powers that be (although they help spread awareness).  The politician looks at them and wonders were those signed only by registered voters or by your 12 year old who can't vote?  Most politicians only care about votes and if you don't vote you usually don't matter to them.  If a legislator votes against an animal issue then wins re-election, that is bad for the animals.  There must be political consequences for them when they vote against the animals.  Then we have their attention when the next animal issues comes up--you can bet your life on that.

Politicians "Flip-Flop" (Change Their Minds Too Much)

Have you ever read a new study about a vitamin and decided that you will begin taking the vitamin?  Or found a more positive way to train your canine friends like clicker training?  Stopped eating meat once you found out there is a healthier, more humane way to eat?  Does that make you a "flip-flopper" or an intelligent person with an open mind who found a better way?  Yet when a politician changes their position on something we jump all over them. Our cynical, American attitude seems to always think they are guilty until proven innocent instead of the other way around.

The Opposition DOES Understand Politics and That Is Why They Win So Often!!!

Think about all those who work through politics to keep animal people from winning issues:  the meat industry, the animal research industry, the "animals in entertainment" industry, the hunting industry, farmers, etc.  All of these entities have something we don't seem to have--the knowledge it takes to be politically savvy.  When any pro-animal legislation begins in a state or locality, their well-oiled political machine goes into action to defeat it.  You think it is a coincidence they often win?  And hey, they have many people to accomplish this and something we don't have--tons of money behind them.  So we must fight smarter.

Much of politics happens in closed door meetings.  Deals are made--you scratch my back and I will scratch yours.  You help me get my bill passed, and I will help get yours passed.  By the time an issue goes to a committee to be studied or a vote is taken, legislators' minds and the actual vote are often already decided ahead of time.  A phone call from a powerful office is sometimes enough to kill a bill that should have gone to the floor for a vote even though many people wanted the bill to follow what we think our democracy should be--fair, honest and beyond reproach.  Toughen up and get a clue--it doesn't usually work that way in reality.

I helped to win a political victory for animals in my own community.  Once it looked like we were going to win, animal people started coming back to the cause who had quit trying before years ago.  Some worked hard on the issue and then quit when they lost.  Why???  Because our society says it's not ok to lose?  Losing means you are BETTER than someone who never tries anything at all.  We need to look at losing as a POSITIVE learning experience, not a negative one.  This isn't a football game, it's about the lives of animals!

I found a great quote from Mohandas K. Gandhi (Non-Violence in Peace and War, 1948):  "I could not be leading a religious life unless I identified myself with the whole of mankind, and that I could not do unless I took part in politics."

Here's a great one from Thomas Edison--when you turn on a light bulb, think of his tenacity:

If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward. Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet.
-Thomas A. Edison, Encyclopaedia Britannica

What Should We Do?

Try to watch shows like Meet the Press with Tim Russert.  I have mentioned I also like Bill Maher's show on HBO for getting the truth out there.  These shows do good research on all issues.  Meet the Press is more politically centered and Bill Maher (who is on the board of Peta) is more progressive but Bill tries to get conservatives on the show too.  His show is rarely boring!

If you are drowning in rescuing pets, you probably don't even have time to read this article and when there is a litter of puppies needing help, voting seems far away.  Vote by absentee ballot if you can or have a backup person to help if you can.  Make the time to vote because every vote for animals counts!  EVERY ONE!!

Don't attack legislators, treat them with respect so that we are seen as professional as the opposition.  If you meet with one, dress like you are going to church--first impressions are important.  Remember some people think our ideas are "out there."  Learn facts and listen to the national groups who have knowledge about this and do what their alerts say.  Don't call a local animal control for instance complaining about policies there when they can't change the policies--it only makes us look uninformed and ignorant and also harms the work of those at the shelters by having to answer the phone too often and they never have enough staff.  If you want to try to change an issue, don't go off on your own.  First talk to others with more experience who may have valuable information to help you.  As each generation works on animal issues, many came before all of us and their valuable experience helps us in our fights now, in the same way that our experiences in the present will help future generations.

Read, read and read some more the writings of people who caused change to happen in our world.  Learn from them! 

- If you do nothing else, get on alert lists for animal legislative issues. 

- Here are great sites which simplify things for us:

-
http://www.americanhumane.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ta_action_alerts
or American Humane: Prevent Animal Abuse and Child Abuse by Taking Action Now

- http://www.fund.org/humanescorecard
or
The Humane Society Legislative Fund | Humane Scorecard

- Read the book:  Get Political For Animals and Win the Laws They Need by Julie E. Lewin from the National Institute for Animal Advocacy

- Donate time for an animal friendly candidate--answer phones for them for an hour a week or more.  Or write a check out to their campaign if you can.  Every contribution helps, no matter how small.

Conclusion

When we give up on politics, we give up on the most defenseless of living creatures.  When we allow our cynicism to stop our actions, we have abandoned them.  When we say something else is more important than politics, we have lost the primary tool for change to help animals as well as our world.  You can change a local policy which is important, or you can change a national policy which will affect thousands if not millions of animals.  Learn to work through the system, instead of giving up on it. 

We must learn patience, flexibility, and compromise.  We need to remember that it is ok to not get everything we want--maybe we will get it the next time.  We must learn that a loss was only a learning tool--a stepping stone to the next win.  We must keep our idealism for animals inside of ourselves so that we NEVER give up hope that things will get better.  We must remember that things are really beginning to change for animals and we need to keep that momentum going.  Remember that the easiest way to defeat someone, is to break their spirit.  And I will be damned if anyone is going to ever break mine!!!

PLEASE NOTE: 
Pawprints, Footprints & Animal Chatter are my opinion (editorials) on mostly animal issues.  Thank you so much for emailing me with positive comments or constructive criticism or disagreement that we can all learn from.  If I don't respond to your email, please re-email me!  I make every effort to respond to any email but I am very busy and a few times had computer problems too.  Emails can also "disappear" in cyberspace--rare but it can happen.  I make every effort to courteously respond--THANKS!!  Please be sure to indicate in subject line that it is about my article so I don't delete it as spam.

Judy
shortietek@aol.com
Staff:  Animals in Print 
(free online animal publication)
www.AnimalsInPrint.org

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